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Why putting off follow-ups can be risky for heart-failure patients

September 17, 2020 07:33 AM


Why putting off follow-ups can be risky for heart-failure patients

Nearly one in every two heart failure patients have missed their follow-up examinations in the last six months due to the fear of Covid-19 infection, revealed top city cardiologists. While there is no data in India on the consequences of this neglect, the experts said it could be adding to the morbidity and mortality risk.

The Times of India’s “Beat Heart Failure” initiativein partnership withNovartis aims to create awareness about the timely diagnosis and management of heart failure and the need to create an effective national heart failure registry.

“Heart failure is a serious condition that demands close monitoring and follow-ups, else the outcome can be catastrophic,” warned Dr Neeraj Bhalla, senior consultant and director of cardiology, BLK Super Specialty Hospital. “You need to monitor your weight, blood pressure, pulse and salt intake in addition to timely changes of dosage of medications to reduce complications.”

Bhalla added that during the Covid lockdown, the condition of many heart failure patients worsened and quite a few died, both because of neglect and lack of access to healthcare. “A few who were infected by Covid couldn’t survive,” the BLK doctor said.

AIIMS has been running tele-medicine services to follow up with patients after the lockdown was imposed and recently started OPD services too. However, according to Dr Sundeep Mishra, professor of cardiology there, many patients are still reluctant to visit the hospital. “I get 10-15 calls daily from heart failure patients. Some of them undergo regular check-ups, a few have developed complications such as fever or breathing difficulty,” he said. “We tried to help them through tele-consultation, but in certain cases physical examination is necessary. However, many patients aren’t keen to visit us.”

A similar decline in visits was also reported by Dr Sujoy Shad of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and Dr Y K Mishra of Manipal Hospital.

Heart failure is an end-stage heart disease in which the muscles of the heart are unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Patients suffering from the disease are almost always elderly and have co-morbidities.

Shad said that Covid infection or even seasonal influenza could have serious consequences for heart failure patients. “Any shortness of breath, fever, fatigue or loss of appetite should be taken seriously,” he cautioned. AIIMS’ Mishra added, “Fever, diarrhoea, body aches and pains warrant a change in medication for heart failure.”

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